From the trailers and the TV ads, here’s what you likely already know about Unknown.
Everything is known, and it offers no surprises.
All of the characters and the pieces of the plot of move exactly as you expect. That includes the cardboard cutout high-speed car chases and attempts to kill the main character.
With this type of film, likability is determined by how well the writers and director get you from A to Z.
In the case of Unknown, the alphabet formula works.
Liam Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris. He and his beautiful wife are in Germany for a botany conference. His briefcase gets left at the airport. Harris catches a cab to go back, gets in a car crash, nearly drowns in a river and ends up in a coma for four days.
No one makes inquiries about him during that time — not even his wife.
Puzzled, Harris leaves the hospital and goes to the conference’s hosting hotel and finds his wife with another man. A man claiming to be Dr. Martin Harris. Neeson’s Martin Harris is even more confused when she denies knowing him at all.
With nowhere to go and completely baffled, Harris starts searching for answers.
While still in the U.S., Harris communicated with a German botanist. Contact with the guy adds even more to the mystery. His replacement just “happens” to be there and knows everything Harris knows about previous communications to the most minute detail.
Predictable hints are given to Harris to drop the questioning. He doesn’t — actually he can’t — so people predictably start trying to kill him in ever so predictable ways. Escape from death in Unknown happens according to a quite familiar formula — including the aforementioned car chases — and the involvement of a beautiful woman and just a hint of romance.
Producers keep casting Neeson in roles that would be a better fit for a younger man. It is getting more difficult to believe this middle-aged, now pushing senior territory leading man is attractive to women younger than him by 25 years. That said, Neeson’s straight-ahead, no-frills delivery, and skill playing what has become his stock character, sells the concept.
What makes Unknown most palatable is that starts fast and stays fast. The film never dawdles and gives you zero time to start questioning dozens of obvious plot holes.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Friday, Feb. 18 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.